The COVID-19 pandemic has created historic turmoil all over the world. It’s also injected a huge amount of uncertainty into business operations. As consumers practice social distancing and work remotely, audience researchers, advertisers, and publishers are left with a number of big-picture questions:    

  1. How might future cycles of social distancing affect how we connect with and engage our target audience? 
  2. What’s the best way to attract new and existing users right now, and several months from now? 
  3. What does consumer device usage look like today? Where is it increasing or decreasing?
  4. Will any recent shift among users be permanent? Or are any such changes merely short-term?

How Can User Data Help Us Address Uncertainty?

For any hope of answering these questions, companies need data. At Verto, we’re in a good position to help provide data-based insights, because our core business involves collecting data about users and digital consumer behavior in any market. 

We’ve always believed the best data (and insights) come from passive audience measurement. We achieve passive measurement by maintaining a proprietary, single-source, longitudinal, cross-device meter panel (which works across all a consumer’s devices, both when the consumer is offline and online). This panel passively tracks digital consumer behavior in the US, 24 hours a day and seven days a week (and conforms to stringent data privacy laws and regulations). 

The data sets generated by our passive audience measurement panel help researchers, advertisers, and publishers understand the full digital footprint of US consumers.

Why Passive Audience Measurement Yields Better Data

Why is passive measurement better than other ways of gathering data (for example, guesswork, estimates based on simulations, or standalone audience surveys)? 

Passive device measurement yields insights that don’t rely on self-reporting from consumers (like standalone surveys). Also, the insights from passive device measurement are backed by data (unlike guesswork or estimates). 

Clients use our data sets to accomplish measurable goals, including: 

  • Investigating competitors.
  • Identifying market opportunities. 
  • Filling any gaps in subscription, adoption, or the digital consumer journey.
  • Uncovering new ways to increase customer engagement and loyalty.

What We Know about Users during Pandemic

To counterbalance the uncertainty of the current moment, we leveraged our passive audience measurement panel to create the Verto Analytics COVID-19 Tracker. This new tracker offers research analysts a clear view of what consumer device usage looks like online (across all a consumer’s devices) while consumers engage in social distancing and work remotely. 

To roll up some general data, we compared January 2020 and March 2020 data to see which market categories saw increases or decreases in visitation and users (which we define as “user reach” in the chart below) as the pandemic developed. For each market category in the US, we calculated the percentage of growth in user reach (i.e. how many consumers out of the total online user base have used a service in its respective category during the month). We then averaged these growth rates across all services in a given category and compared all the categories. The chart below illustrates our findings.


These stats tell clearly which online app/site categories (including the top thousands of US apps/sites in the evaluation), on the aggregate level, have seen more users during the COVID-19 pandemic compared to their normal levels.

Biggest Increases in User Reach

  • News sites/apps have seen the most significant increase (55% more users on average). 
  • Law/government sources (which have showcased official information, instructions, and guidelines related to public health)  have also spiked, gaining almost 40% more users. 
  • The health/fitness and education markets have also seen significant rises (21% and 19% respectively) in user reach. Remote work tools (including the productivity category) and the overall use of social media and messaging apps (including video conferencing) have also gained almost 10% more users, which is notable given that these markets have massive user bases even during normal times.

Biggest Decreases in User Reach

Gambling related sites/apps have seen the biggest decrease in user activity. (With professional sports suspended, there’s nothing for consumers to gamble on.)  Sports apps/sites are also down, showing 14% fewer users. Users in the automotive market are down by 8%, possibly because test drives are a no-go in the current environment (we’ve also seen fewer people shopping online for cars at the moment).

How are consumers in your market using their digital devices to research purchases and shop during the pandemic? Contact to see how data from our COVID-19 Tracker can give you actionable insights.

Recommended Posts
Sign up for our newsletter: